Think of meta descriptions like a movie trailer or a preview of coming attractions.
Here you’ll learn:
- How these descriptions relate to ranking
- Ways meta descriptions affect SEO and PPC
- How to write a great meta description
- When to leave meta descriptions blank
Let’s talk meta. No, not the Facebook rebrand — meta descriptions.
Meta descriptions help users and search engines understand what the webpage is about and how well it matches the search query.
They’re a pillar of technical SEO. Think of them like a brief summary of the page’s content or a preview.
Meta descriptions aren’t a direct ranking factor. However, they still matter when it comes to the success of your SEM strategy. Let’s take a closer look at why meta descriptions are important.
Meta descriptions and Google
Back in 2009, Google announced that meta descriptions aren’t direct ranking factors. However, they do affect the page’s click-through rate (CTR) on the search engine results page (SERP). As a result, this can have a positive effect on the page’s rankings.
These descriptions allow users to get a glimpse of what your page is all about and help inform their decision whether or not to click the link. It’s an opportunity to make a great first impression.
That said, it’s worth noting that Google reportedly rewrites over 60% of meta descriptions. The goal is to make these descriptions more relevant to the user’s query.
When you create a description, it’s logical to include one or two keywords. If none of them match the searcher’s query while the page’s content does, Google aims to help you and the searcher out by creating a more relevant description.
Google will also generate its own meta description if you don’t provide one. In fact, over 25% of high-ranking pages don’t have a description at all. Instead, they rely on Google to do it for them.
Should you write your own meta descriptions?
While it may seem logical to delegate meta descriptions to Google, it’s not always a good idea.
Even if Google-generated descriptions are relevant, they aren’t always enticing and attention-grabbing, since they weren’t written by an actual human. If you want to have control over how your pages are described on the SERP, you need to create strong meta descriptions on your own.
Meta descriptions and SEO
As mentioned above, these descriptions contribute to your SEO efforts by improving CTR. These previews can bring more visitors to your website, allowing your content to take over to guide them down the sales funnel.
Also, meta descriptions allow search engines to learn what your page is about and how relevant it is to the searcher’s needs. Even if Google ends up rewriting the description, it can still use yours to evaluate the page.
For example, when someone shares a link to a webpage on social media, the description shows up on the preview. A high-quality meta description can generate more traffic from social media platforms to your website.
Meta descriptions and paid search
While meta descriptions are important for SEO, they can also affect your PPC strategy.
When your website appears on the SERP, the right description can encourage clicks. And when search engines evaluate your website for relevance to the person who sees the ad, these descriptions can affect their decision.
The PPC-meta description partnership works both ways. You can use PPC data while writing high-quality descriptions. By analyzing which ads produce higher CTR, you can identify strong keyword opportunities and use them for your website’s metadata.
Implementing meta descriptions: Best practices
To maximize the positive effect of meta descriptions on your SEO and PPC campaigns, consider these practices.
1. Use your brand’s tone of voice
When creating these descriptions, don’t just focus on keywords and relevant content.
Rather, it’s a good idea to also use your brand’s unique voice. It can help improve your brand awareness efforts while attracting more people to your website. If your site messaging is tongue-in-cheek or witty, your descriptions can follow suit.
A meta description isn’t just a technical tool that helps improve your rankings, after all. It’s part of your overall content strategy.
2. Add calls to action (CTAs)
Implementing a CTA into your description can allow you to start selling your products or services even before the user clicks the link.
A call to action can strengthen the searcher’s desire to explore your website. When relevant, consider adding CTAs like “download the full version,” “get a free trial,” or “follow this blog to…”
With or without CTAs, bringing urgency into the meta description can help you connect to your audience’s emotions and get the desired clicks.
3. A/B test meta descriptions
You can split-test meta descriptions to see which works better for your website. Consider playing around with elements like:
- Keyword positions
If you can figure out which descriptions generate better traffic, you can adjust them for your entire website.
4. Review old pages
Meta descriptions for older pages may not be in tune with your current keyword strategy. By refreshing descriptions, you could be reviving old posts and bringing more traffic to your website.
For example, an old blog post may focus on a keyword that worked well for you in the past but no longer achieves the desired results. Try adding a better-fitting (but still relevant) keyword to the description and see if you get more traffic.
While you’re reviewing old pages, check for duplicate descriptions. SEMrush found that 30% of websites have duplicate descriptions. Pages with duplicate descriptions compete for the same terms, which can hurt the rankings of both.
5. Leave it blank
Having trouble coming up with a unique and relevant meta description for one of your pages? Simply leave it blank.
For instance, this can happen to e-commerce companies that have thousands of product pages. Sometimes it makes more sense to take advantage of Google features than to struggle to create a high-quality meta description.
Pro tip: A blank meta description beats pasting in a duplicate one.
Meta descriptions are a handy marketing tool that can improve your SEO and PPC efforts.
Uniqueness, urgency, relevance, and high-quality keywords are the pillars of a good meta description. While it’s not a direct ranking factor, a well-written description can improve your CTR and bring more traffic to your website as a result.
Need more help with your content marketing strategy? Let’s chat.